Dear Leo and Miller,
Reading more of Steinbeck’s letters is certainly having the desired effect. Some people need physical exercise to keep a positive frame of mind and I have decided that I need good literature. It’s nourishing for the soul and quiets the mind. Even when it isn’t actually offering any advice, just reading something well written is comforting in itself: it can gather your thoughts for you. AA Gill (another writer who I think is brilliant) puts it like this “Writing, for me, is the great organiser. It’s while I’m writing that I think most deeply about things.” That’s what I hope, in some small way, these letters can offer you two. I’m not suggesting you are going to be blown away with any skills of mine but I am going to quote lots and lots of stuff that I read or hear that I think is note-worthy and which can help you navigate your way through difficult times. And I don’t mean devastating life-changing times, I really mean the little every day disappointments or worries that can slowly gain momentum and cause the most damage to a person. If I can provide even the smallest reassurance or just a distraction – then that makes me happy. Because life can be really really tough. But is always worth it. Always.
While we were on the subject of AA Gill he also said this which I think is good. When asked what people should know about him, he said: “‘Well one is that I’m a Christian. And I believe in being honest – that’s really important – telling the truth. I suppose to be kind whenever you can be. I also want to have an optimism about people – I would rather leave my wallet on the table and have it nicked once or twice than have it chained in my back pocket.’
I do have something quite important to tell you in this letter. Well, it’s important to me and consequently you. Leo, I have put you into nursery on a Monday morning (which take you up to 3.5 days per week) and Miller, your Granny (my Mum) is going to look after you on a Monday morning. And the reason for this is so I can be totally selfish and have four whole hours every week where I can please myself. Recently I have been feeling strange. Not myself, not quite right. It felt like I was craving something but I had no idea what. I wasn’t unhappy but I felt that I had to change something. It slowly dawned on me that what I was craving was time on my own. To the point that I would deliberately forget to buy something from the shops during the day so I had the excuse to go out later on my own. This is bad. This is ridiculous. I was getting excited to go to Waitrose to buy bread just because it meant 20 minutes by myself. So I have made the decision to basically get rid of you both every Monday morning so I can do the things I enjoy that have absolutely nothing to do with you, such as – playing with my clothes, ringing my friends, sorting out boxes of photos, reading fashion magazines full of clothes I can’t buy anymore. These activities have become luxuries because of time: you two take up a lot of time. They seem trivial but they are important because I do them alone and doing them makes me feel like me. And I cannot lose myself just because I am a parent. Karl Lagerfeld (a genuine legend) said this (which is slightly extreme but I agree with the sentiment): “Only being interested in yourself lets you be more available for others. My mother said “You should never sacrifice yourself too much because afterward you’ll have nothing more to give. So think about yourself, then you can be interested in others and be useful.”
I love you both very much but I am giddy with excitement at the thought of being totally alone in the house to do whatever I want. I had a brief taste of that freedom yesterday and spent it re-arranging my wardrobe and filing receipts. I won’t lie: it was bliss.
It is our wedding anniversary today and we are going to the cinema. Which is our favourite thing to do. Even if we don’t go and see a film, we still go to the cinema, specifically the Tyneside Cinema. It is a wonderful place that I hope is still going strong when you are growing up.